Global Spotlight: Rick Szal

Posted: Tuesday, September 30th 2014 at 6:44 AM

For 25 years, Rick Szal, FCB Business Division lecturer of economics, worked for the United Nations. He was located in Switzerland for 20 years and the Philippines for the last five. Throughout his time with the UN, Szal worked on many projects with the primary goal of generating employment and income for people in third-world countries. His work touched the lives of people in over 65 countries, generally in Africa and Asia. 

While in Switzerland, Szal put together teams of people to complete research and operations projects in different locations. All of the projects had something to do with generating income for the local people. These endeavors covered a wide variety of people's needs, anything from increasing solar salt production in Tanzania, to the processing of cassava (a tuberous root plant) into flour in Liberia, to teaching women more effective ways to make pottery in Ghana, to producing boats more effectively in Angola. On occasion, Szal made on-site visits for review and progress checks towards their project goals.

One of the biggest challenges Szal faced when working on a project was attempting to ensure the project would continue after the initial stage and, in this respect, to guarantee funding would continue after the donor country's funding had ended. In response, Szal and his colleagues set up a systems of "revolving funds." Funds obtained for a project from a donor country were allocated to beneficiaries for investment in the project activities in the developing country from a "revolving fund." The beneficiaries were required to repay the loan over a period of time, usually interest free. These funds would be allocated to new beneficiaries within the same project framework to extend the coverage of the project.

During his time as Director of the UN-ILO Office in the Philippines, a great deal of work was undertaken in various areas relating to the employment of vulnerable groups. One cornerstone program concerned the elimination of child labor. As in many developing countries, children in the Philippines are viewed more as an investment than as “work in progress.” Children are considered to be potential workers from a very early age so that they can contribute to the survival of the household, and often, schooling takes a secondary position. Although there are many laws prohibiting child labor in the country, they are not well enforced. Eliminating child labor requires a comprehensive approach to improving the employment and income potential of the adults in the family so that there is less of a need for children to contribute to household income. The ILO attempted to create training and employment schemes to improve the income earning potential of adult family members in this overall struggle. Other programs of the ILO dealt with vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, such as tribal and indigenous populations, women, and small-scale farming communities.

Szal's project on 'Green Growth' was featured by Newsweek magazine. This project focused on how to promote and foster environmentally sound growth in third world countries.

Through the use of anecdotes, Szal leverages his overseas experience in his current position as an FCB introductory statistics and economics professor to illustrate key points. His unique experiences make for interesting and even uplifting stories.

Contact Szal [HERE] for more information on these and other programs of the ILO in the Philippines and elsewhere. 

This article is part of a series on FCB Business Division and SHRM faculty to highlight the international experience within the college and to promote our globalization initiatives, including the launch of the Global Business Program (GBP). Information on this program can be found HERE.

More About Szal

Faculty profile HERE

LinkedIn profile HERE

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